Are social sciences really good for anything?

Are social sciences:

  • advancing human understanding?
  • a consolation prize to those who try hard but can’t understand real science?
  • both?
0 voters

Some might argue that things like sociology and criminal justice and those sorts of things are less useful than REAL sciences like physics, chemistry and so on.
It could be hard to deny that studying these things in the way that they are conventionally studied is a useless task.
But I ask you this…
Are they more useful in that they create jobs for people who might otherwise be totally useless to society?
Or do you actually think that they contribute something valuable to human understanding that’s greater than the effect on employment and economics?
Is it a real intellectual movement?
Or is it just of a way to make useful the people who might not be able to understand real intellectual movements?

While the results from the social sciences are less clear, I do think that they are important. After all, the matrix that the information provided by the real sciences is placed in is at least as important as the information itself. The social sciences provide that essential ethical dimension by observing society and seeing how it functions.

I agree …

Social science disciplines:
Information science
International relations
Political science
Social policy

All of the above can be replaced with SMears.
They are all leftist science. Even the name ‘Social’ suggests Marxism. #-o

I’m glad we can agree raven.

I wouldn’t do that if I were you.
See, I ended up in the Hall for that one.

Sociology and psychology, via neuroscience and evolutionary biology have now linked to the natural science. The mind is generated by the brain and societies are constituted of organisms and have their own modes of conduct and character. Neuroscience is opening new windows on what was believed to belong to the behavioral, positivistic domain. Political behavior likewise. Suggested reading: The Blank Slate (Pinker), [i]Philosophy In The Flesh /i

E.O Wilson, and R.C. Lewontin have done some stuff linking social sciences to real science. “Sociobiology” is good, also “Biology as Ideolgy”.


They are useful because they help to shape the approach of more concrete pursuits.

There’s nothing to stop scientists from making the world’s most efficient Negro grinding machine or a virus that makes babies’ heads blacken and fall off.

Without a sense of history, impact, and ethics then there is no reason to not do what can be done.

So it’s there to serve the purpose of political correctness by limiting the practical application of other science?

The way you’re using the term political correctness seems kind of loaded. Also, when you say, it’s there, is off as well.

People have been interested in social science for a longer time than actual science. It is safe to say that science actually evolved from the social sciences, and is just a stripped down version.

Science doesn’t answer questions like why a medicine will be invented that works, but the patient still won’t take it anyway. It can explain why a new product will be made, but no one wants to buy it, or a great new weapon that doesn’t make the people rejoice its creators as heroes.

Science is only a half, or less, science and we see constant examples of that.

I just have a problem I suppose with the state of social sciences in academia. I went to take an elective course(sociology 100) about 2 years ago. When I got there I was all excited about the possibility of discussing Marx, or Weber. All I got was a lesson in sensitivity training, and the idea that all of society’s problems are the result of the evil, white, male. The lady was a textbook lesbien and refused to field any real questions. It was a total disappointment. She’d abandoned intelectualism for political correctness and her own agenda. I still got an A, but the class was a complete waste of time, and may have actually made me dumber.

I’ve heard about that happening at Uni.

I think it was last year that some prof, who claimed American Indian ancestry, started making inflammatory statements a Bush and the people killed in 911. Anyway, I also saw the guy talking about his book on CSPAN Book and he came off as a preacher and not a scholar.

It sounds like that’s what you experienced. Teaching on the college level ought to be about teaching a person how to think and not teaching them what to think.

The philosophy of social science is too broad a subject to treat in one post. But to give a fatal counterexample to the view that the social sciences are pseudo-science and do not produce genuine knowledge as, say, biology, consider the cognitive revolution in psychology. For years the field was dominated by behaviorists, notably BF Skinner, and the primary focus was on laws of learning. Skinner, in “Verbal Behavior”, applied principles of operant conditioning – rewarding utterances when correctly made in responce to the right cue – to language acquisition.

Behaviorism, with its supposition that the human mind (and human nature generally) is infinitely malleable and shaped by experience was dealt a blow from which it never recovered, when Noam Chomsky, who held that the mind was part of the natural world and was properly studied as such, revealed that all languages shared a common syntax which children universally manifest at a common developmental stage and upheld a cognitive interpretation of linguistic theory.

Researchers have studied brain and behavior from the dawn of recorded science, but until recently it was left to chemists to analyse hormones, endocrinologists to study glands, and psychologists to interpret behavior… Today’s cognitive neuroscience is making it possible to study the entirety of the organism, with the “mind” as part of its evolutionary heritage and accessible to scientists in embodied form.

Psychology is a branch of biology

Going back to my past posts:

Look at the abortion issue, such a thing can be done and done well, through our knowledge of biology. The procedure has been debated since the time of the Greeks and we’re still going on about if it’s right and how it makes a person feel to get it.

These are legitimate questions and both can and cannot be answered because science cannot answer them. What I mean by that is that something like abortion is both right and wrong and may or may make a person feel badly, because individual reactions aren’t consistent.

Biology is only a half measure of learning.

Psychology, or any of that, isn’t a science because science needs static or predictable systems to test on. Humans literally will not react the same way twice to the same stimulus.

All of it must be taken as a whole.

Once upon a time some university students have monitored their cafeteria and simply observed how often people look around during lunch. What they found is that it depends on the others around them. If they were sitting with friends they were more relaxed and didn’t have the urge to look around that often.

That humans will not react the same way twice to the same stimulus is simply not true. If Mr. Predicable meant, human behabior is not predictable as simply as that of inanimate life, that is a different matter. But human behavior can be studied and understood. Certain behavioral patterns are hardwired and part of the human evolutionary inheritance. All infants respond with favor to embrace of a nuturant mother. And the same infant will respond the same way twice and more, because the embrace is either an instinctive cue to acceptance and further maternal rewards or learned very early on, save in cases of abuse or developmental abnormality.

The example of a mother’s embrace is a timely one, as it used by Lakoff and Johnson, in “Philosophy in the Flesh”, to illustrate the theory of conflation in the course of learning.

(p46)"For young children, subjective (nonsensorimotor) experiences and judgments, on the one hand, and sensorimotor experiences, on the other, are so regularly conflated, – undifferentiated in experience – that for a time children do not distinguish between the two when they occur together. For instance, for an infant, the subjective experience is typically correlated with the sensory experience of warmth, the warmth of being held. During the period of conflation, associations are automatically built up between the two domaims [subjective and sensorimotor]. " Later, a period of differntiation allows chidren to distinguish the two domains, but the cross domain associations persist in adulthood, as evidenced in such expressions as a warm smile, a high sensation or a fever pitch. In the sensorimotor sense, “warm” has a literal meaning referring to the rise in temperature the child enjoys upon his mother’s embrace. “Warmth” in the sense of affection is metaphorical.

I can’t simplify Lakoff and Johnson so I’ll continue to shamelessly quote, and in the process improve my own understanding (pp46-47):

"The “associations” made during the period of conflation are realized neurally in simultaneous activations that result in permanent neural connections being made accross the neural connections that define the conceptual domains.

These connections may occur when some sequence of activations at the neural level, A, activates a further neural cluster,B, which is through past conflation association metaphorically associated to B and part of the subject’s subjective domain.

(p47);Distinct conceptual domains can be coactivated, and under certain conditions connections across the domains can be formed, leading to new inferences. Such conventional blends can be brought together to form larger, complex metaphors.

The upshot of Lakoff’s thesis is that “mind” is a subjective domain which is generated from enhancements of the primitive process of conflation that infants are subject to when sensory inputs are not distinguished from sensory experiences and the neurolocomotor domain feeds the subjective, the domaim of thought – the embodied mind – with the concepts derived from metaphorical conflation, without which thought is not limited to instintual expressions of raw cravings, emotions, and so on.

That’s too simple.

They might have looked around more or less, but they didn’t look in the exact same way, nor did they look the same amount of times.

That’s not true, perhaps on average it is, but a baby isn’t made magically better by a nice mother. They aren’t ipods.

Who said anything about anything being put into any condition by magic? And since when was approximating the power of magic a condition of there bheing a scientific truths in social science? There’s no such thing as magic. Can’t prove a negative, but I do know any claims have been debunked.

Are you doing a “Scott” on me here? Do you think that I literally meant magic?